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Surviving Life (Theory & Practice)

(Přežít svůj život (teorie a praxe))

Montreal Premiere

  • Animation
  • /
  • Czech Republic / Slovakia
  • /
  • 2010
  • /
  • 110 min
  • /
  • 35mm
  • /
  • Czech with English subtitles
Surviving Life (Theory & Practice) Surviving Life (Theory & Practice) Surviving Life (Theory & Practice) Surviving Life (Theory & Practice) Surviving Life (Theory & Practice) Surviving Life (Theory & Practice) Surviving Life (Theory & Practice) Surviving Life (Theory & Practice)

Official Selection, Venice International Film Festival 2010
Official Selection, Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival 2010
Official Selection, International Film Festival Rotterdam 2011

Presented in collaboration with la Cinémathèque québécoise and the Embassy of the Czech Republic

Screening Times

“Riotous visions abound throughout... would take a platoon of psychotherapists years to decipher all the meanings loaded within” — Paul Martin, INDIE MOVIES ONLINE

“Superbly absurd animation with a psychological and political nod towards the human condition” — TV BOMB


Director: Jan Švankmajer
Screenplay: Jan Švankmajer
Cast: Václav Helšus, Klára Issová, Zuzana Kronerová, Daniela Bakerová
Producers: Athanor
Print Source: Athanor

Screens with...

Illness Magnified   

Illness Magnified

Canadian Premiere
2011 | 17 min
English language



Among the finest contemporary productions from Jan Švankmajer, SURVIVING LIFE bears a title with an ironic double meaning. On one hand, here is a filmmaker who is today at an age where it is possible to look back and wonder how he managed to make it through such a life. On the other, if “surviving life” can be read as a reflection on times gone by, it can also be a challenge typical of the celebrated animator and filmmaker’s humour, as though Svankmajer asks, “What do you do to survive this life of yours?”

Which life is it? The morose one of an office working fleeing reality for the realm of reveries. Is it unhealthy? Certainly, if you ask those close to him. The inveterate dreamer consults a psychoanalyst not to glean understanding of his dreams and nightmares, not to put a stop to them, but only to leap unrestrained into even more bizarre daydreams, all the more frequently. Švankmajer pits Freud against Jung here with derisive force — those who imagine they might explain dreams, make a theory of them. Entirely animated, the film’s numerous dream sequences afford him the chance to wield his disturbing surrealist imagination — sex, violence, desires, obsessions, the illogical and the darkly funny, evoking both Poe and Lewis Carroll, two of his favourite writers.

Take a step back in time. Aged 76 today with a long filmography — 36 shorts and features — and a member in good standing of the Prague Surrealist Group, Švankmajer shot his first film in 1964, had his 1970 documentary short THE OSSUARY censored, was banned from directing for seven years following 1972’s LEONARDO’S DIARY, came to far more widespread visibility when Channel 4 began to support his work in the late ’80s, won prizes at the Annency animation festival in 1983 for DIMENSIONS OF DIALOGUE and in 1989 for ALICE, witnessed the dividing of Czechoslovakia in 1992, followed the transition from socialism to triumphant capitalism and from artistry to industry, and lost his wife and collaborator Eva Švankmajerová in 2005. SURVIVING LIFE (THEORY & PRACTICE) is thus as much a look back as a charge forward, firmly founded on a strange convergence of provocation, melancholy and even a hint of sentimentality — coming from this auteur, the latter surprises. And you… how will you survive your life without dreaming?

—Marco de Blois, programmateur-conservateur, Cinémathèque québécoise (translated by Rupert Bottenberg)

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